Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why I have never been tempted to activate the "comments" feature on my blog

Perhaps I'm being unfair or excessively finicky to say this, but my impression from reading blogs for almost a decade is that, as a general rule, the "comments" threads on most blogs tend to be dominated by junk that is useless at best--and often worse than that, since it's common for them to fill up with mindless ranting and vituperation. There are occasional exceptions, and some blogs with well-established constituencies even manage to generate intelligent discussions in the "comments" threads. But, even for those blogs, keeping things from getting out of hand usually requires persistent and draconian policing of the "comments" to weed out postings and posters that go over the line (trolls, obsessives, bigots, conspiracy theorists, outright loonies, and so on). That strikes me as more time-consuming than it's worth, though I can appreciate why other bloggers might feel differently.

If people really want to tell me something in response to something I've posted, they can (and occasionally do) manage to find my e-mail address and send me a message. Why make it easier for them? The need to go through that extra bit of trouble is usually enough to weed out most of the crazies.

=> Though not always ... Let me draw on the experience of another blogger (more big-time than yours truly) to illustrate.

From time to time, Jeffrey Goldberg has shared some examples from the stream of hostile e-mail messages, ranging from abusive to semi-deranged, that prominent & controversialist bloggers like him attract. And that's just e-mail traffic. His blog doesn't take "comments" either, but in blogs with "comments" threads, the volume and intensity of this sort of stuff increases exponentially.

Here are a few illustrative examples picked at random (from here & here ). Plenty more where they came from, and I suspect that Goldberg isn't sharing the more demented, illiterate, and morally obscene kinds of e-mail attacks he gets, but these convey the basic flavor:
It is embarrassing that you use a Jewish surname as camouflage for your pathological hostility towards Hebrews.

How much would it take for you to change your last name to "Goebbels"?

Although, I am a Goy with opposing perspectives from your own I hope you are able to avoid forwarding my contact information to Zionist monitoring networks/agencies as well as distributing my comments to third parties. Thanks.
And for a more thoughtful and nuanced analysis:
Mr Goldberg,
I know thinking outside your shallow, Zionist ideologies and prejudices may at times be quite difficult for you but I urge you to try in the instance of you challenging C-SPAN. It's quite uncouth for you to peddle such vitriolic "journalism" against such a shining flagship for open and free media for and by the people of AMERICA (not Israel). Essentially I just want to let you know I find your condemnation of the freedom of C-SPAN to be quite disgusting. I guess you and your kind won't rest until ALL of television is pro-Israel, Zionist controlled, ADL garbage. Too bad you guys couldn't just settle for 99%. Why don't you start writing pissy, poorly written articles every time the Arab world and the Islamic world are bastardized in the media? Oh wait. I know; it's because you are a mean, racist, Zionist Jew who turns his head to the same injustices of groups other than your own. Besides your miniscule readership of flaming Zionists, I'm afraid not many are caring for or about what you say.
=> Well, as my mother used to say to me, "Why dwell on the negative?" Many of the e-mail messages I get in response to posts on my own blog are intelligent and illuminating--I've occasionally posted selections from them, with permission--even when the person writing me is indignant about something I've said that he or she thinks is idiotic and/or morally reprehensible. I sometimes get e-mail messages from loonies, too, but I'll just let you guess about those. However, here is one characterization of my world-view that was once posted as a "comment" on someone else's blog:
I also think that Weintraub and Geras [JW: that's Norman Geras, with whom I'm always proud to be associated, even for purposes of mindless defamation] ought to, rather than pussyfooting around with hypotheticals, make it clear that their current position is that Senator Joseph McCarthy was right on the facts (that a large proportion of the American left in the 1930s were active apologists for Stalinism and formed a fifth column in the USA) right on his reaction to those facts (to take action to blacklist and jail them in large numbers) and that his methods ought to be followed today. I'm not using "McCarthyite" as a simple political insult here; it seems pretty clear to me that this is the exact same position that Senator Joe occupied; I regard that as decent prima facie evidence of its lunacy but others don't.
Sure, I've always held "the exact same position" as Joe McCarthy, especially the bit about blacklisting and jailing people I don't like. As for "lunacy"--well, it takes one to know one. There's enough of this poisonous bullshit floating around already. Why encourage or facilitate more of it?

Yours for reality-based discourse
& some minimal degree of political sanity,
Jeff Weintraub